My salad-a-day challenge

Spring time has gotten me thinking about what I can grow in my garden. If I’m awake late at night, planning a succession of tasty food plants is my favourite thought exercise. My fantasy garden is the same as my real one except with fewer weeds and slugs, and the soil doesn’t dry into rock-hard chunks I have to break with a shovel before I can plant anything, plus it has a potting shed and a greenhouse. My thoughts tend to wander when I ponder what to plant resulting in perhaps some eclectic choices along with garden staples like tomatoes. I’ve planted licorice (to brew beer) and have soapwort on the go (because I found the seeds, so why not plant them?). I’ve learned not to plant things which I don’t like eating (sunchokes and aramanth) or don’t do well (corn). Purple potatoes and carrots get planted simply because they are purple.

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Buttercrunch lettuce growing in a pot

The reality is, although I can grow lots of food, I won’t ever be self-sufficient on my small urban lot. True self-sufficiency is off the table as I don’t have enough space (or the will) to grow enough food to feed my family every meal day in and day out. I live on a 563 square metre lot, where more than half is house and front yard. My street acts as the produce aisle for several generations of urban deer – mostdays, five or six deer can be spotted wandering the sidewalk tasting a shrubbery or munching flowers while totally ignoring people. In our modest backyard, we’ve build 6 raised beds where I’m growing as many vegetables, herbs and berries I can fit, plus a few flowers. In the back corner, I keep a few hens.

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A view of the garden from my office, 1 May 2014

This year, to give focus to my planning, I’m going to try something new. I’m going conduct a gardening experiment: can I grow enough foodstuff to feed a salad a day to my husband and I every day for a year? I say foodstuff, as opposed to lettuce, because I’m defining a salad as a cold dish with a base of raw veggies, however, there might be a few exceptions to the ‘raw’ part. I’m excluding my household little person, because as a toddler, I have no idea what she will or will not eat day to day. She does willingly eat plenty of veggies most of the time, a trend I don’t want to jinx.

Fortunately, my temperate island in the Pacific does offer a reasonable climate for year-round harvesting. With careful planning and plant choices I should, in theory, be able to produce greens of one sort or another to form the base of a salad-a-day aiming for as much diversity in salad choices I can muster. Plus, I grow plenty of micro-greens, pea shoots and sprouts in the kitchen.

How am I going to keep track of this? I’ve been pondering this question. An elaborate point system for different salad components could be designed, however the more complex I make this the less likely it becomes that I’ll follow through with tracking how we do. Since I have a kitchen scale, I’m just going to weigh the salad parts that came from the garden. I’m not going to be totally purist and say that 100% of my salads will come from the garden (most will) as I for example don’t produce any oil or vinegar for the dressings and to make a salad a meal I’ll need to add some sort of protein and the only bulk protein produced in the yard is in eggs, which I eat for breakfast.

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random red lettuce

Why start May first? Around here, this time of year is when the great gardening weather begins, so I would get the easy part first and time to prepare for winter and next spring when gardening is tougher. (The real reason is that I thought up this idea late April).

3 thoughts on “My salad-a-day challenge

  1. […] My recent thoughts about squeezing more food out of my urban lot led me to stumble upon The Quarter-Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family for a Year by Spring Warren (she has a nice website here). She is much further along the same path that I’m on – I haven’t converted my front lawn to veggie patch yet, but I’m plotting to do it. She committed to growing 75% of the food she would consume and her book is about her struggles and successes in doing that for a year. Plus, she has a goose with my name (a coincidence I’m sure). […]

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